“We always learn what we experience—that which is actually happening for us. This is different from learning from our experience.” — Anat Baniel
Marvellous quote from Anat Baniel from her book Kids beyond Limits. The saying «We learn what we experience» doesn’t invalidate «We learn from our experience», it’s something different altogether. It’s another angle at looking at learning. Anat Baniel is writing this in a context of how to create conditions for learning, what we need to create an environment that can help children with learning disabilities and special needs, and what kind of exercises are not rote drills, but exercises that themselves create conditions to learn specific skills and abilities.
The same thing is very well explained in the context of compulsory schooling by John Taylor-Gatto, in his book Dumbing Us Down:
“Children learn what they live. Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community; interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important; force them to plead for the natural right to the toilet and they will become liars and toadies; ridicule them and they will retreat from human association; shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even.”
And here’s the same thought, but with a serving of resentment and sarcasm, by Jerry Farber, from his heavily criticised essay The student as Ni****:
“Even more discouraging than this [..] approach to education is the fact that the students take it. They haven’t gone through twelve years of public school for nothing. They’ve learned one thing and perhaps only one thing during those twelve years. They’ve forgotten their algebra. They’re hopelessly vague about chemistry and physics. They’ve grown to fear and resent literature. They write like they’ve been lobotomized. But Jesus, can they follow orders! Freshmen come up to me with an essay and ask if I want it folded and whether the name should be in the upper right hand corner. And I want to cry and kiss them and caress their poor, tortured heads.”
But what is this pearl of wisdom to us now, as grown-ups? «We learn what we live» what does it mean, now? Now- that we have graduated from school, and get to create our own environment? Now- that school might already be in half a lifetime’s distance? To what parts are we still defined by what we’ve learned way back in school?